Materials for Beginning to Learn a New Language

This post is mostly just sharing links to the materials I use when I’m starting out in a new language, all of which are drawn by Angela Thomson, except my bad picture dictionaries. Those are all me! (I am editing this post as coaching clients interact with these materials and tell me what they need, so do keep checking back!)

Many of my ideas and most of the good ones come from my mentors, Greg and Angela Thomson. Their written manuals are here. Helpful demonstration and explanation videos they’ve made are here.

Specifically, this video talks about the materials that you may want to use for beginners. One caveat- I take photos of the actual objects I use, and sketches that I make on the spot for the phrases, instead of using the dictionaries that Angela talks about in this video. Samples are below.

My picture dictionary. I take this snapshot, and record my language helper saying (or signing in this case) Number one, tiger. This is a tiger. Tiger, and so on.
power tools.jpg
Part of my tool phrase picture dictionary. The first one is of someone sneezing. Most days for the first 100 hours or so, I learn to understand a few new tool phrases. After I act out what I want to learn to say/, my language parent says it a few times, and then I sketch it poorly right then and there. Then we play listen and point. “Who is saying ‘Bless you’?”

As you can see, I am quite an artist. The person in the first picture is sneezing, in case you didn’t get that.

Here are links to other materials that I print out and use. These are all excerpted from the Thomsons’ graphics packet found at this link.

Meeting 2 Game 2 People Doing Things

Body and face pictures

Emotion pictures

Nature Scene


16 Pictures Info Gap Game

Weather Info Gap Game

Patterns for making a house and furniture

Making dolls from pipe cleaners

You should also get some play money, or print some out for the country you’ll be living in, this is helpful for learning numbers. Print it out in color, fronts and backs (although 2 sided is not needed), and have several of each denomination of bills, and 10 of each coin.

In addition to the maps linked above, you’ll want some simple outline maps of the region you’re working in, and color pictures of the flags from the surrounding countries, as well as your country of origin and any other country that people are likely to talk about with you.

What have you used? I’d love to see pictures of what’s working for you!

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